Lion-eating Poet in the Stone Den

By Chao YuenRen [Zhao Yuanren]

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The Chinese language is highly homophonic; that is, many Chinese words are pronounced alike. Because of this, a written language system based on sound spelling can not work well.

Chao Yuen-Ren [Zhao Yuanren], an eminent linguist at the start of the 20-th century, wrote a short essay to spoof the idea of converting written Chinese into a phonetic system, i.e., Romanization. (Pin-yin came much later.)
The essay is 93 words long. Every word is pronounced "shi"; so when this essay is written using a phonetic system, the entire essay becomes,

shi shi shi shi shi shi shi ......

which are utterly unreadable.

Now when it is written as Chinese has been written for thousands of years, it looks like this:

At the University of Washington, there is a Yenren Society, dedicated to the author's work. Email address of the society is

The Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den This page in Aolung Tueting's site contains English translation of the essay as well as sound files in Mandarin and Cantonese.

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